COCINA 54 Empanadas began in the kitchen of Argentinian couple Federico Carrillo and Cecilia Panichelli. They missed the foods of their youth, they missed the taste of home. With their young family, they spent weekends making empanadas, from a recipe handed down for generations. They froze their empanadas to pack in lunches throughout the week or to take to parties with friends. After positive feedback, the duo decided to take their product to retailers in their home state of Texas, and most recently to Target stores in the southern region of the United States.

Currently, their empanadas come in four flavors: Traditional Beef, Spicy Beef, Chicken & Peppers, and Spinach & Cheese. They are made from scratch with fresh ingredients, meats raised without antibiotics, and a gluten-free crust. It is these qualities that align most clearly with Target’s mission to bring authentic, nutritious foods to its shoppers.

“We connect with the new multicultural consumer who’s influenced by not only cultural trends but also the need for simplicity.”

The Target launch comes on the heels of a period of exponential growth for COCINA 54, which in a span of three years, now sells in over 800 stores, including key retailers such as Walmart, H-E-B, Kroger, Safeway, Wegmans and Gopuff.

Cecilia’s advice for other founders looking to expand into Target? BE PREPARED. “To us, it means working with a broker that knows the retailer better than we do, have a launch plan ready to go, and understand how your brand fits within Target’s mission. It is clear that they value BIPOC brands, and for a brand like COCINA 54 it was just the right time.”

“Target’s understanding of their consumer needs met with what we offer as a brand: real food with authentic ethnic flavors that fit their busy lifestyles.”

A former Nestlé executive in Latin America, Cecilia has worked hard to bring to life a brand that shares not only the flavors of her country but also its culture. As one of the few BIPOC female-led brands that truly brings innovation to the frozen food category, COCINA 54 also aligns with Target’s Diversity objectives. Last October, the brand worked closely with Target’s Hispanic Heritage Council during Hispanic Heritage Month.

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